Yesterday marked my 2 week anniversary in Berlin. While I'm still very much adjusting, I must say that I am starting to feel more and more like a true Berliner (and less and less like a tourist) every day. While there is no sufficient amount of planning one can do when undergoing a huge transformation such as moving to another country, I would still like to share a few of the hurdles that I have had to overcome. My hope is that this post will help someone else in the same boat (or rather someone who is fresh off the boat) feel more confident when emigrating.
1. Grocery Shopping
Even though I read a blog post prior to arriving in Berlin about grocery shopping (I love the internet...haha) I was no way prepared for what was to come. First of all, cashiers sit down. Second of all, they do not bag your groceries for you, that is YOUR job (bring your own bags or be prepared to pay for them.) Third of all, they do not take credit cards (well I finally found one that does, but it isn't common at the smaller shops.) Once I figured all this out, it made the experience less stressful. Don't be afraid to dive right in there--that's how you learn! The first time I went out on my own, I watched other shoppers to see what the norm was. Eventually you'll get the hang of it.
I was completely and utterly distraught when I found out hardly anywhere in my hood (Kreuzberg) takes credit cards. Withdrawing money from the ATM was not really an affordable option since I have a daily withdrawal limit (around 250 Euro) and every time I withdrew money Wells Fargo charged me a $5 transaction fee plus a $5 conversion fee. Desperate to find a cheaper way, I scoured the internet and found this great site...TransferWise.com. As long as you have someone who has a bank account in Germany that you can transfer the money to, it works swell! To send $1000, TransferWise only charged me $10 (much less than a bank would charge for a wire transfer or ATM fees.) Also--your first transfer is free if you use this link. I was skeptical at first, but the company is backed by Richard Branson (so you know it's legit--haha.)
While it's true that most Berliners know a good amount of English, some just don't want to speak it. My intention was to join a language class as soon as I touched down in Deutschland, but I quickly changed my tune when I realized how many free tools there are out there. Instead of paying 150 Euros for an intro to the language, I decided to take the DIY route. Here are a few of the tools I have been using: DuoLingo, Germanpod101.com, MindSnacks app. There are a ton of free German podcasts, apps, websites out there. I encourage you to try out a few before finding one that clicks. Good luck!
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